Perfection: The #1 Creativity Killer
Perfection = Procrastination
Give it up, or at least, reach for something more enjoyable in life. Because you can have those other things and they can be a lot more satisfying once you let go of the idea of being a perfectionist.
This isn’t an excuse to not edit and do your best to put out the best final product you can, more just an understanding of what happens when you focus so much on being perfect that you don’t do anything. I stress that. Many writers starting out focus so hard on making something absolutely perfect, they never get the fucking thing done.
I have obsessive tendencies, more neurotic than anything. I can spend hours staring at a computer screen drawing small perfect little lines to make fur look realistic, then go in and add small dots for the shadows and highlights of every single strand I just drew. I know what it’s like to get sucked into the micro and lose sight of the large, and although there are some beautiful meditative moments mixed in there, I tend to become a raving bitch after a few hours of it. If I did that with my writing, I wouldn’t write. It would destroy my happiness when I write to be happy.
The other part of this is just about accepting the reality that no matter how damn amazing and perfect you made your last story, it’s done and it’s time to write another one. This is commercial writing. There’s no point wasting an extra month on one story when you could have been cranking out a short series to put beside it. You’re only hurting yourself, and, may I be so bold, letting your creative skills go stale by not exercising new plots, new ideas, and concepts because you were once again hyper-focused on making the perfect story. There comes a point in this type of writing when it’s about learning how to conceive, outline, produce and publish a story, not just creating a masterpiece.
I’m pretty upfront—I’m relaxed with my writing. I like relationship drama, I like sexual tension, I like a lot of sex in a fic, and some interesting plot points, but I’m not writing the next hard-hitting social-political commentary. I’m writing a distraction for myself and for a lucky reader that may stumble across my story and be glad to have found it. This allows me to stay alive and enjoy what I’m doing—because so help me, if I stressed out on making art when it came to writing, not only would I be miserable trying to live up to some crazed internal pressure of perfection, the external critics would be even worse.
Bad enough to run across the grammar police while writing what I do—Imagine if I started selling myself as making hard-hitting, heartfelt, LGBT coming of age stories with gritty real life consequences? Fuck, just take all the fun out of it now. I already have those types of readers stumbling across my books flaming me for it not reaching their weird expectations even though I’m pretty clear in my summaries what my stories are about (sex and not much else.)
If I tried to write at that level, I’m pretty sure I’d be so bored I’d never finish writing a damn story, never mind want to read it. Because that shit bores me. I don’t want to read it and I don’t want to write it. Snooze fest. Add in some shit about balancing a BDSM lifestyle with a full, satisfying family life and perfect, amazing career and I’ll be standing on a ledge looking to jump before I have to read something so mundane. And yeah, I don’t care if other people do want to read that and people think I should write for my audience or what not—because all those people aren’t my audience. I wouldn’t have written anything if I was writing to fit that niche no matter how popular it may be.
Don’t let other people’s expectations define you and your choices. People hate themselves and they hate on other people with almost as intense a fervor as they direct inwards. But damn, if they put that energy towards just loving their life—Wow, what a world it would be. If you waste your time trying to please other people with your writing, the only guarantee you have is that you’re going to be unhappy in this journey you’ve chosen. And seriously, why the hell are you doing it if you’re not going to be happy? There are so many things in life we compromise on, why should our creative outlet be one of them?
I am not a perfectionist, but I still manage to write and publish books that I genuinely enjoy writing and some other people genuinely enjoy reading. You can’t write for everyone, don’t even try. You can’t make everyone happy, ever. But you can make one person happy this very damn instant. Yourself. Write something you want to write. Love it. Express the things you want to express and share it with the world, and my god, be shameless about it. Every time.